The Hound of the Baskervilles | Study Guide

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Hound of the Baskervilles | Chapter 8 : First Report of Dr. Watson | Summary

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Summary

Although Holmes requested just the facts, Watson begins his report with a description of the lonely and dismal ambiance on the moor. The escaped convict, Watson goes on, has likely fled the area as he couldn't survive for that long without food. Sir Henry appears to have developed a romantic interest in Beryl Stapleton, and her brother does not seem to approve. Watson further reports that Sir Henry gave his old tweed suit to Barrymore to apologize for asking him for his whereabouts when Holmes's cable arrived. Watson is steadfast in his suspicion of Barrymore, whose wife continues to show signs of distress. Dr. Watson also reports meeting Mr. Frankland, a friendly yet a litigious fellow who owns a telescope and watches the moor to look for the escaped convict.

That same night Watson hears footsteps pass by his room and catches a glimpse of Barrymore slipping into a room on the second floor, a candle in hand.

Analysis

Telling the reader the story as he told it to Holmes invites the reader to take on Holmes's role and solve the puzzle, interpreting supposedly raw and unbiased facts. And indeed the chapter provides a lot of information, which at first glance seems haphazard and unconnected. A closer look, however, reveals that the report holds the very clues that will eventually uncover the many layers of truth.

The assumption that the convict has left the area because he could not survive without food hints at the real role the Barrymores play in the mystery. The continued puzzle of Mrs. Barrymore's tears as well as the tweed suit Sir Henry passes on to Barrymore points to a case of mistaken identity with tragic consequences. Stapleton's seemingly inexplicable resistance against a romance between his sister and Sir Henry intimates the real nature of the siblings' relationship. Frankland's role in the search for the escaped convict foreshadows the seemingly unrelated mystery his telescope will solve.

The facts are all there ready to be analyzed, yet neither Watson nor the reader can interpret them correctly. Watson's supposedly raw report is actually quite prejudiced. He is suspicious of Barrymore and therefore far more alert to circumstances that speak to the butler's potential involvement in the mystery. While Barrymore's nightly wanderings that end the chapter seem to suggest that Watson's focus is well placed, in the end they lead Watson—and the reader—astray. Although the report piles fact upon evidence upon clue, the mystery is far from being solved, and the suspense increases.

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